Before I delve into the topic of this post, I want to extend a warm thank you to all of those who purchased my first e-book, “UnShopping: Recovery Solutions from an Ex-Shopaholic.” Because of your support, my book reached #1 in the “Compulsive Behavior” category for Kindle books and stayed there for two days! Of course, that’s exciting and all, but the most important thing is that those who read the book get lots of value and helpful tips from its contents.
If you’ve read the book and enjoyed it, please let me know, and if you have a moment, please post a short review on Amazon. That will help to spread the word and lead others to read it. If you haven’t read the book and would like to learn more about it, you can read my announcement from last week or review the book summary on Amazon. You can also check out today’s post on “Untitled Minimalism” reviewing my book.
Keeping Honest, the May Edition
Now on to the main subject of this post, my accountability update for May 2014. If you’re new to “Recovering Shopaholic,” here’s the deal… I’ve committed to posting monthly accountability updates to keep myself honest and on track with my wardrobe and shopping goals. These posts include what came into and left my closet during a given month, what I wore, and how I did with my shopping budget and rules.
What Left My Closet and Why
During May, I purged seven items from my main wardrobe:
- 3 pairs of shoes
- 1 open cardigan
- 1 top
- 2 casual jackets (for walks and workouts)
Here is a photo of the items I released from my closet last month:
I also let go of three workout/lounge tops (not pictured). In addition, I downgraded eight of my standard tops to the workout/lounge category of my closet, for reasons which I will outline below.
In my last accountability update, I mentioned that I would be reviewing my summer wardrobe and letting go of some warm weather items, but I haven’t gotten around to doing that just yet. I also haven’t taken the time to do a second purge of my jewelry armoire (read about the first one here), but I hope to do that within the next week and write about it. A few of you have mentioned that you’d like me to write about jewelry and accessories, so I plan on doing some posts on those topics very soon, beginning with a debrief of my jewelry purging process.
Why I Purged These Items
In addition to posting photos of what left my closet, I also list why I decided to release these pieces. Pinpointing our reasons for purging wardrobe items can help us notice patterns and avoid future mistakes. Listed from left to right, top to bottom (from the photo above), here’s what I let go of and why:
- Black Champion jacket – This jacket was always too big for me, so I mostly wore it around the house. However, it collected lint and cat hair like nobody’s business and I could never keep it clean! My goal is to find a suitable replacement before the cool weather rolls around again.
- Black Raffini sandals – I bought these sandals last month, but thought they looked a bit “heavy” with my skirts and dresses. I have since found a better alternative (see below), so I returned these shoes to the store for a refund.
- Black and cream Born ballet flats – I love the way these shoes look, but they are incredibly uncomfortable to wear. I tried stretching them using a shoe stretcher, but the front part still cut into the top of my foot, causing pain and blisters. I still have the shoes, but plan to sell them on eBay this month.
- Grey Ecco sporty ballet flats – I bought these last year as a more comfortable alternative to standard ballet flats, but I never ended up feeling “fab” in them. I felt like they looked a bit “clompy” on my feet and didn’t like the way they looked with any of my pants. I plan to sell these shoes on eBay, too.
- Navy open cardigan – After several years of wearing open cardigans as part of my “uniform,” I’ve grown tired of this silhouette. Since I purchased a different style of navy cardigan earlier this year (a “boyfriend” style), I decided to retire this one. It served me well, but it’s time to pass it on!
- Navy C. Wonder boat-neck tee – I bought this top late last year back when I thought it was a good idea to have a lot of “basic” tees in my closet. I also liked that it was comfortable and that the 3/4 sleeves were long enough for me. However, my bra straps always ended up showing because the neckline is cut too wide. This bugged me, so out the top goes!
- Navy fleece jacket – This jacket was probably the most worn item in my closet – ever! I bought it on the cruise my husband and I took to Alaska in August 2005 and have worn it hundreds of times since then. So I’m actually getting rid of it because it’s worn out and past its prime. That isn’t a standard reason for me to purge wardrobe items, but it does happen (and will hopefully happen more often now that I’m shopping less).
Purging Speed and Closet “Set Points”
There are a number of other pieces in my closet that are “on the bubble,” so to speak, so I will likely get rid of more items next month. I find that it serves me better to do my wardrobe purging more gradually, as I am then less tempted to go out and buy new things to fill in the gaps. I am slowly becoming more accustomed to a smaller wardrobe and that approach is working well for me.
In the past, I used to purge a lot of items all at once, but I think I often went too far beyond my “closet set point,” which led me to panic and shop to re-set the balance. Everyone’s mileage will vary, as the saying goes, but I’ve found that “slowly but surely” is winning the race for me in terms of decreasing the size of my wardrobe.
About those Downgrades…
I mentioned above that I have downgraded eight tops to the workout/lounge category of my wardrobe. Here’s a photo of the tops in question:
I won’t go through these tops one by one, but I do want to share a bit about my reasons for these downgrades. The three printed tops are no longer in pristine condition, but I still like the styles and enjoy wearing them. While I don’t feel comfortable wearing these tops as part of my standard outfits, I still like them enough to wear around the house or for one of my evening walks with my husband.
As for the plain tees, I just had far too many of them in my primary wardrobe, as I wrote about in my last post. I may end up purging some of the excess, but since I let go of quite a few of my workout tees over the past few months, I decided to give my surplus plain tops “new life” by wearing them to the gym and on walks. We’ll see how that goes… I may end up releasing the two scoop-neck tees anyway (black and wine), as their necklines are a bit too wide for my frame.
I have a few similar plain scoop-neck tees that I’ve kept in my closet pending replacements. I love the colors (cobalt, turquoise, and coral) and will likely still wear the tops, but my preference is to find alternate tops that are of higher quality fabrications and/or include interesting or special details. I will keep an eye out for suitable replacements and plan to purge or downgrade my existing tees as soon as I purchase new ones I like better.
What Came Into My Closet
During May, I added two new items to my closet, a jacket and a skirt, as well as a replacement pair of black sandals (basically an exchange for the Raffini sandals I returned to the store). As I wrote in my April accountability update, I was “allowed” to buy three new items in May because I had made one return during April.
My third item (the sandals don’t count as they were a replacement) was supposed to be the linen pants from Anthropologie that were on back-order since March. However, those pants arrived and they were not an “8” or higher on a scale of 1-10. Yes, I tried on the regular length in the store back in March, but either the fit of the pants I received is different or my style aesthetic has shifted over the past two-plus months. In any event, as much as I need new pants, I don’t want to settle! I have settled many times in the past and the items in question just don’t get worn. I will hold out for pants that I really love, no matter how long it takes.
Here are the new items I added to my wardrobe during May:
Why I Added These Items to My Wardrobe
I believe it’s important for us to understand why we buy new pieces, as becoming more aware of our purchasing motivations can help us to shop smarter. Thus, I share my reasons for buying the new pieces I add to my closet each month. Here are my reasons for buying my three May items:
- Black embellished sandals: My photo of these sandals just doesn’t do them justice (see a better photo, as well as a fun video, HERE)! I have “fussy” feet, so it’s very difficult for me to find attractive shoes that don’t hurt when worn for more than an hour at a time. In my opinion, these sandals fit the bill. I can easily wear them for hours and I like the way the embellished strap adds an element of the special to what’s otherwise a basic shoe. I’m glad I didn’t settle for the black sandals I bought in April and instead shopped to find a better version during May.
- Black and grey striped knit moto jacket: I mentioned in my last post that I’d like to add some “edgy” elements to my style. While this jacket is not full-on edgy, it veers away from the classic style that I usually embrace. Plus, it’s comfortable, the metal detailing is silver (a strong preference for me over gold), and includes two of my favorite neutrals as well as my favorite pattern (stripes!). Yes, I know I have a lot of stripes in my wardrobe and I’ve vowed to cut back, but this jacket was special enough for me to make an exception. I see myself wearing it a lot with skirts and dresses during the summer. I’d also love to find a solid moto jacket at some point in either a neutral or jewel tone.
- Grey crinkle material skirt: I used to have a skirt that was almost identical to this one, but I lost it in an alterations casualty a year ago. I foolishly attempted to basically re-make the skirt by narrowing and shortening it, but it didn’t work out. I should have left well enough alone because I really liked the skirt as it was. I was listening to other people’s voices (who told me I should wear shorter and slimmer skirts) over my own, and I ended up ruining a favorite skirt as a result. Well, I missed the skirt terribly and tried in vain to find a suitable replacement for a full year! I was thrilled to find a virtual duplicate of my ruined skirt on eBay last month and happily scooped it up. I look forward to wearing my new/old skirt a lot this summer!
In addition to the clothing items mentioned above, I also purchased a pair of summer weight pajamas last month. Since I’ve pared down my sleepwear items quite a bit this year, I was happy to find pajama pants that were long enough for my “giraffe legs,” which is no small feat! I will continue to place attention on the often neglected areas of my wardrobe when I shop, including undergarments, workout wear, and sleepwear. I want to feel good in everything I wear and I definitely have room in my clothing budget to address all areas of my wardrobe!
And Then There’s the Accessories…
I generally don’t share the accessories I buy each month, as they are not included in my item limit for the year (but they are included in my budget). In addition, I really wasn’t buying many new accessories since I started this blog last January. However, over the past couple of months, my accessory buying has increased, so I feel it would be helpful to be accountable for those purchases as well. So for the rest of this year (and possibly beyond), I will also share the accessories I buy in my monthly accountability updates.
I considered instituting an item limit for my accessory purchases, but my ultimate goal is to move toward fewer rules instead of more restrictions on my shopping. My hope is to get to the point at which my values (for higher quality pieces and a smaller and more cohesive wardrobe) will govern my shopping rather than a strict set of rules and edicts. So instead of implementing yet another rule to restrict my accessory buys, I will simply be accountable to you (and to myself) for what I buy in this category each month.
In some respects, the commitment to be accountable has been more helpful to me than my rules. Knowing that I will have to “spill the beans” about what I buy each month – and explain the rationale behind my purchases – has been extremely helpful to me in controlling my overshopping.
With all that said, here’s a list of the accessories I added during May:
- Blue inlaid stone earrings – These were a gift from my mom as a thank you for helping her after her hip replacement surgery. I told her that a gift was not necessary, but she ended up sending me these earrings last week anyway. I love the blue stones and I know I’ll enjoy wearing the earrings with my cobalt and black garments.
- Turquoise and brushed silver earrings – I bought these at my favorite jewelry store in Lake Tahoe, which is also where my mom purchased the earrings above. I always buy at least one or two pieces of jewelry whenever I visit this store, as they carry pieces that I just don’t see at the mall stores. I have a bracelet with the same brushed silver beads (albeit larger) and I love turquoise jewelry, especially with black or white clothing.
- Green metal earrings with bird design – These earrings were also purchased at the Tahoe store, and I love the color and design. The earrings are also very lightweight, which is a definite plus. I often like larger earrings, but don’t want to have to get surgery to repair my already stretched out ear holes. I’ve heard such surgery is expensive and the recovery is lengthy, so I’m avoiding heavy earrings in the hope that I can also avoid going under the knife!
- Silver lattice design earrings – I bought these at a boutique close to where I live and they were somewhat of an impulse buy. That said, they were very inexpensive and I’ve already worn them twice, so I don’t regret the purchase.
- Purple crinkle scarf – I don’t wear scarves as much as I used to, but I still enjoy wearing them on occasion. As most of the scarves I have are patterned, I wanted to add a couple of solid scarves to my wardrobe. I love this purple color and I feel it looks good with my complexion and hair color.
- Zebra print scarf – I already have a zebra print scarf, but this one is of a much higher quality (I plan to purge the lower quality scarf). I like to wear animal print on occasion and I love that this print is black and white (my favorite).
- White scarf – I’ve mentioned wanting to add more white to my wardrobe. While I’ve been on the hunt for a white top with special details, I’ve yet to find one that isn’t paper thin and of questionable quality. However, I did find a nice white scarf that can help to lighten up some of my ensembles.
I don’t generally purchase this many accessories each month (or at least not since I started the blog)! But when I saw how many new items of jewelry and scarves I added to my wardrobe last month, I knew I needed to get honest and rein in my accessories buys. I feel good about the items I bought during May, but I plan to be more selective and restrained with this wardrobe category moving forward. I also plan to audit my existing collection and purge the pieces that no longer match my style aesthetic and quality standards. I will share an update on this process very soon, so stay tuned…
2014 Item Limit Update
As specified in my shopping and wardrobe goals post, the maximum number of items I may purchase during 2014 is 38 (half of what I bought last year). As of the end of April, I had purchased exactly half my limit (19 items). Because I made one return during April (for a refund), I was allowed to buy three new items in May instead of my new limit of two. Amazingly, however, I only ended up buying two new things last month! I also exchanged the black sandals I bought in April for a new pair in May, as I shared above. So, as of today, the number of new items (clothing and shoes) that I’ve bought – and kept – this year is 21. That means I may purchase 17 additional items this year.
Since I didn’t buy three items during May, I’m going to allow myself to do so in June. I hope to find a black maxi-dress, a special white top, and a brightly colored skirt. Alternatively, I may opt to purchase one of the shoe options on my shopping priorities list and/or a pair of summer casual pants (since the ones from Anthropologie didn’t work out). It all depends upon what I’m able to find… Sometimes it’s easier said than done to find certain items, but my shopping has been far more effective since I started being more targeted in my approach. Yes, I still make mistakes, but my track record has vastly improved over previous years.
May Budget Report
My budget for clothing and related purchases (shoes, accessories, alterations) for 2014 is $3000. My May budget was $250 (that’s my budget for all months except December, when I can spend up to $400). I spent a total of $293.70 last month, which exceeded my budget by $43.70. However, since I was under my budget by $67.91 at the end of April, I am still doing well with my budget for the year.
As of the end of May, I have spent a total of $1246.28 on clothing and related categories during 2014. That means I am actually under budget by $3.72. It feels good to be sticking to both my budget and item limit for the year. Although I eventually don’t want to have so many rules governing my behavior, I often think we need to prove we can adhere to limits before we can earn the freedom we deeply desire. I believe that I will eventually be able to be freer with how many items I buy and how much I spend, but I don’t think I’m ready for that just yet. But I definitely intend to get to that place, especially since freedom is one of my top five life values! We’ll see how I feel at the end of the year…
The Rest of the Story
While I often report on what I wore the previous month and share my favorite outfits in my accountability updates, I’m going to push that out to a separate post since this one is getting so long. Since I’ve been thinking deeply about my current style and how I’d like to see it transform, I have a lot to say on that topic. In the interest of not writing a post of epic length, I’ll save my style thoughts and outfit photos for a later post (likely at the end of this week). I will also update my shopping priorities list for 2014 in that post.
I included quite a few recovery tips in the body of this post, but wanted to summarize them here in order to drive the points home (or in case you’re skimming this post – it’s okay… we all do it!). Here are the key tips I mentioned in this accountability update:
- It’s helpful to list everything you buy in a given month, as well as your reasons for purchasing each piece. This can help you to better understand your motivations for buying things, as well as what items worked well for you and which ones were basically purchasing mistakes.
- The same is true for the items you purge from your wardrobe. Listing your reasons for releasing each piece can help you to better understand what types of items you should steer clear of buying in the future.
- When paring down your wardrobe, it is often a good idea to do so gradually, as many of us have a “closet set point” which takes a while to recalibrate. If we let go of too much at a time, we may feel compelled to go out and shop in order to restore our closet to a level that feels more comfortable to us.
- Don’t settle for less than what you really love when shopping. If you buy a lesser version, it’s very likely that you won’t end up wearing it often, if at all. It’s better to hold out for something that’s an “8” or higher on a scale of 1-10, even if it takes you a while to find it!
- Don’t neglect any areas of your wardrobe! We often focus our shopping on the clothes we wear outside the home and things that other people will see, but the “hidden” areas of our wardrobes need addition, too. We all deserve to have well-fitting garments we love in all of our closet categories, including undergarments, sleepwear, and workout/lounge wear.
- If you have a tendency to buy a lot of accessories, it can be helpful to list everything you buy each month in that category as well. Writing down all of the accessories we purchase can help us see patterns which may or may not be serving us. If we buy too many of the same types of things, seeing the evidence in writing (or photos) can alert us to those tendencies and help us to shift our behavior.
- Using a shopping priorities list can help to target your shopping and assist you in avoiding buying mistakes. It’s also helpful to decide on what you plan on purchasing (both in terms of specific items and how much you’ll spend) during each given shopping trip. While you may not find what you are looking for, narrowing your scope will help you to avoid the types of impulse buys that you’ll often end up regretting down the line.
- Even if you hate rules and restrictions, imposing limits on your shopping can be beneficial as you’re learning to shop less often and more wisely. You may eventually want to shop “like a normal person,” but as you’re learning to build new habits, having rules in place can be a good idea. You can loosen the restrictions later after you shift your shopping habits in a positive direction and feel more in control of your buying.
Well, that’s it for this post! Yes, it was a long one, but I hope you found it interesting and derived some value from it. By the way, I really loved the discussion that resulted from my last post on wardrobe “basics.” Not only did I learn a lot from the various perspectives shared, I’ve been pushed to re-think many of the notions I have about closet staples and their role in my ideal wardrobe. If you don’t generally read the comments on my posts, you might want to take a look at the responses to my “How Many Basics Do We Really Need?” post. They’re that good! If you want to comment on this post and are reading this via email or through a feed reader, click here to share your input.